Showing posts from July, 2016

Of Primaries and Prime Ministers

I have read or heard a number of comments from various people this weekend about how local parties pick parliamentary candidates and how national political parties pick their leaders. The person who goes furthest out on a limb against the moves which have been made to widen the franchise, and have been seen up to now as extending democracy, is David Herdson in an article on Mike Smithson's excellent "Political Betting" blog, " Time to put UK primaries to bed ." David goes a lot further than I or many others would, and his article includes a number of significant hostages to fortune but he makes some important points such as "Allowing anyone to participate in something which they’re likely to want to sabotage is obviously foolhardy and even Labour, in opening its leadership contest to self-defined ‘ supporters ’, does at least reserve the right to deny the vote to those it believes don’t support its objectives." "We don’t know of course how

On the principle of know your enemy, Conservatives should read this ..

 ...  and also on the principle of making sure we are not making the same mistakes. Ayesha Hazarika, former special adviser to Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman, who is now a comedian (some people might say not much has changed there then) has an interview in the Evening Standard about her time working for the Labour party and how she came to make an Edinburgh Fringe show about it ... You can read it here .

Sunday music spot - O Lord, in thy Wrath


Quote of the day 31st July 2016

"Socialism is at its most dangerous when  it creeps." (Matthew Parris, former MP turned journalist.)

YouGov poll finds Scottish majority against independence unchanged since Brexit vote

After the 2015 General Election and the 2016 EU referendum I take opinion polls with a bucketful of salt. However, they are all we have, and changes in the same poll, especially if they form part of a pattern, can tell us whether there is any sign of movement. Yougov have just released a poll on Scottish Independence which shows almost the same small lead for "No" over "Yes"  a month after the Bexit vote that they had found before the EU membership referendum. The lead for "No" (e.g. to remain part of the UK) is not enormous and suggests that if there were to be another referendum it might well be close. However, it does appear, if you will pardon the expression, to "scotch" the suggestion that there has been a massive swing towards Scottish independence from the UK since the EU membership vote. (The change is only about one percentage point, well within the margin of error.) Yougov say here that "Fully 46% of Scots say that the

The Times accuses Putin's Russia of running a black propaganda operation in Scotland

The Times newspaper has a couple of important stories and articles today. The main front page story, which is also the subject of an article covering most of two pages inside and a leader is about the propaganda organisation Putin's Russia has setting up in Edinburgh posing as news outlets. I very rarely agree with the SNP on anything but I will say this to Nicola Sturgeon's credit - since she took over the SNP leadership senior figures in the party have mostly  refused to act as 'useful idiots' for Putin and his mouthpieces RT and Sputnik. West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes urged party supporters to consider messages from Kremlin-backed media sources like Sputnik news carefully before reading or sharing them on social media. He said: "It is often tempting to think that the messages put forward by these channels are progressive, but it may be worth asking if the sources funding the likes of Sputnik News really do share your views. "These

Local muslim community refuses to bury priest's murderer

Muslim community leaders in the Normandy town where an elderly Catholic priest was murdered by Islamic militants have refused to bury one of the two young men who killed him. Adel Kermiche, who was 19, killed Father Jacques Hamel, 86, while he delivered mass. The local Muslim cultural association in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray has told the media that they do not wish to "taint" Islam by associating with Kermiche, who was shot dead by French police after he took hostages at the town's 17th-century stone church, alongside Abdel-Malik Petitjean, also 19, on 26 July. Mohammed Karabila, the president of the Muslim association, who is also an imam at one of the northern French town's mosques, told Le Parisien: "We're not going to taint Islam with this person. We won't participate in preparing the body or the burial." The paper reported that Muslims who lived in the town, which lies near the city of Rouen, supported the decision. One local Muslim resi

Glorious weather, beautiful countryside, and horrible traffic

There was a meeting of North West Region Conservatives in Kendal this morning so I drove from Whitehaven to Kendal (and back after the meeting). It was a very useful and constructive meeting. The journey was also a perfect illustration of the best and worst things about living in Cumbria. A drive in glorious weather through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. And when they were not behind the wheel of a car, everyone I interacted with was polite, friendly and a pleasure to deal with. Slightly spoilt by traffic, particularly where there are roadworks and temporary traffic lights between Kendal and Ambleside. If you are travelling through Cumbria and have multiple routes available to you, I would recommend avoiding the A591 at the moment, particularly the stretch between Kendal and Windermere.

Saturday music spot: Bach's.Cantata No.51, "Praise God in all nations"

Wonderful performance of a fantastic piece

Prospects of Whitehaven Relief Road appear to move nearer

Don't hold your breath, but there appears to be a growing political consensus in West Cumbria that a Whitehaven Relief Road could be on the cards. It would probably start at the Moresby roundabout on the A595 north of the town, and then running to the east of the town behind Whitehaven Academy and the hospital and then rejoin the A595 between WCH and Westlakes Science Park. There is a report about the proposal in   this week's Whitehaven News with various sources of funding suggested and support in several parts of the political spectrum. I think this could potentially be a very positive idea.

Quote of the day 30th July 2016

(Usually attributed to the older Dumas but I have also seen it attributed to his son and namesake and also to Mark Twain)

Adam Tomkins MSP on the "Named Persons Law"

Conservative MSP and law professor Adam Tomkins has written an excellent piece in the Scottish Daily Mail, " Yet again, SNP simply refused to listen to criticism" about the egregious "named persons law" proposed by the SNP which the Supreme Court has just unanimously ruled against. He describes that ruling as "A wake-up call ... that greater vigilance is needed to safeguard us from ill-considered laws" You can read the article at the Press Reader site here . I shall have to use the line above as a quote of the day in the near future. Frankly the statement that " greater vigilance is needed to safeguard us from ill-considered laws " may be particularly true of Scotland under an SNP administration in the Scottish parliament but it is also true at most times and places under governments of almost any political persuasion.

Greg Clark's statement about Hinkley Point

Following the confirmation by EDF of their commitment to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, the new Energy secretary Greg Clark made the following statement: "The UK needs a reliable and secure energy supply and the government believes that nuclear energy is an important part of the mix. “The government will now consider carefully all the component parts of this project and make its decision in the early autumn.” EDF Group chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy said he remained confident it would go ahead. “I have no doubt about the support of the British government led by Mrs May,” he said. China General Nuclear said in a statement: “We respect the new Government’s need to familiarise itself with a project as important to the UK’s future energy security as Hinkley Point C and we stand ready to help the Government in this respect.” Downing Street were insisting that the project had not been delayed and there was an “agreed timetable” with the French governme

Quote of the day 29th July 2016


MOORSIDE CONSULTATION - last chance to have your say

Whether you agree with me or disagree that the community of West Cumbria, and Britain, desperately needs for the Moorside nuclear new build project to go ahead, this week is your last chance to have your say in State Two of the consultation, which concludes on Saturday. The Moorside Project is a nationally significant infrastructure project and must be consented through the Planning Act 2008 via a ‘Development Consent Order’ (DCO). Before a DCO can be made, NuGen is required to consult with those living in the vicinity of the land to which its proposed application relates, key local authorities, persons with an interest in the land and prescribed statutory bodies, as well as publicising its proposed application nationally.   NuGen’s consultation process involves two stages: Stage One: Strategic Issues Consultation, which was carried out from 16th May 2015 to 25th July 2015. Stage Two: Proposed Scheme Consultation which will run from 14th May 2016 to 30th July 2016. NuGen ha

Hinkley Point new nuclear plant approval confirmed

As expected, the board of EDF energy has voted to confirm their investment in a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. This is the first new nuclear plant to be approved in Britain for many years. It is great news for Britain and paves the way for the new nuclear plant at Moorside near Sellafield to go ahead, which will be great news for Britain and Cumbria. As I wrote earlier today , it is imperative that Britain gets cracking on building new power stations if we are not to have power cuts within a decade. And if we want low carbon generation, and energy for which we are not dependent on the wind or on Vladimir Putin, then new Nuclear build has to be included as part of a balanced energy policy. Nineteen Conservative MPs have signed a   letter calling for new nuclear power stations and I strongly support them. John Prescott is supposed to have once asked supporters of new nuclear power stations " Would you want one in your constituency ?" Here in Copel

The Brexit hype cycle

I was amused to see that an article in City AM explains reactions to Brexit by inverting the new technology hype cycle . Where new technology typically produces an initial surge of hype followed by a trough of disillusionment as it fails to live up to the hype, and finally settles on a plateau of productivity, it has been suggested that the vote to leave the EU has initially produced a spike of panic, which is in the process of being replaced by a "return of rationality" as people notice that the sky has not fallen in, and will end with a plateau of pragmatism. I certainly prefer this to the excessive reaction of many on both sides - the Remainer doom-mongers grabbing every opportunity to present any event they can as proof that voting to quit the EU was a disaster while the "Doctor Pangleavess"  are equally keen to seize any pretext, however flimsy, to show that Brexit is already bringing heaven on earth. There is a possibility - though I certainly would

French look set to approve Hinkley Point investment as Tory MPs call for new nuclear build

Great news for Britain and our nuclear industry as the EDF board, meeting today, looks set to approve investment in the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station. It is imperative that Britain gets cracking on building new power stations if we are not to have power cuts within a decade and if we want low carbon generation, and energy for which we are not dependent on the wind or on Vladimir Putin, then new Nuclear build has to be part of a balanced energy policy. Nineteen Conservative MPs have signed a   letter calling for new nuclear power stations and I strongly support them. John Prescott is supposed to have once asked supporters of new nuclear power stations " Would you want one in your constituency ?" Here in Copeland, the answer is not just "YES" but also "GET ON WITH IT! " Every local election result and consultation suggests that the majority of people here want the Moorside proposal for a new nuclear power station to go ahead. Here is

A very wet day ...

West Cumbria experiencing the sort of weather this morning that gives wet days a bad name ...

Quote of the day 28th July 2016


BT and Openreach

Declaration of interest - I have worked for the BT group for more than 30 years. For the last two years I have been a manager within the Openreach division. However, the opinions expressed in this post are my own and not necessarily anyone else's - not those of BT or Openreach, or the Conservative Party. The communications regulator OFCOM has been reviewing the functioning of Britain's digital economy and yesterday published a number of proposals which they described as " plans to make digital communications work for everyone " Some of OFCOM's proposals are logical and sensible. All ought to be carefully considered And it is right that there has been and will continue to be debate about them. What is tragic is that most of the debate about what Britain's policy towards broadband should be has been based on seriously sloppy thinking, and in particular too many journalists and politicians have uncritically repeated the self-serving arguments of certain

A reminder to Conservative party members from the new party chairman:

  This year’s Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham (2nd October to 5th October) will be the first with our Prime Minister and leader, Theresa May.   Make sure you reserve your pass before the price goes up on 1st August.   At conference we will come together and lay out our plans to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.   This year’s conference is set to be one of the biggest ever. So don’t miss out.   I look forward to seeing you in Birmingham, Patrick McLoughlin - Conservative Party Chairman PS Remember - the price will go up after 1st August so be sure to reserve your place today. Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

UK Economy grew strongly in Q2

Figures released today by  the Office for National Statistics (ONS)  show that the Britisb economy grow by 0.6% in the three months to the end of June 2016, up from 0.4% in the previous quarter. On an annual basis, growth was 2.2%, helped by a surge in manufacturing. ONS chief economist Joe Grice said: "Continued strong growth across services, particularly in retailing, reinforced by healthy growth in the manufacture of cars and pharmaceuticals, boosted output in the second quarter."      Manufacturing output grew at 2.1% in the quarter, which was its "best gain since 1999", said Neil Wilson, an analyst at ETX Capital. The services sector, the largest part of the UK economy, grew 0.5%, while construction and agriculture fell 0.4% and 1% respectively. Economic growth was strongest in April before easing off in May and June, the ONS figures show. These figures say NOTHING either way about the merits of the decision to leave the EU. Only the last we

When helping victims requires us to be tactful about horrible things ...

It has been a year of shocking stories, but if half of what has been written in the press about Amina Al-Jeffrey is true, hers is one of the most upsetting According to the Telegraph Amina Al-Jeffrey, now 21, was born in Swansea but taken to Saudi Arabia aged 16 by her father who is a member of the academic staff at the Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and is reportedly receiving funding from the Saudi Arabian government to contest the court order being sought to allow her to return to Britain. The family division of the High Court was told yesterday that over the course of more than four years, the young woman has reportedly been physically abused, deprived of food and water, and kept in a cage when her father leaves their home. A British lawyer, Anne-Marie Hutchinson, who has met Amina said that “She is a normal Welsh girl and still has her Welsh accent,” she said. ”She wants to return home so she can have control of her own life and make her own choices." Mr Justice H

Quote of the day 27th July 2016


Yet another tragedy in France

Our neighbours and allies in France appear to have suffered particularly badly from terrorism over the past few months and today's murder of a priest in his 80's in the church where he was celebrating Mass was particularly sick Our thoughts and prayers are, again with the people of France as they come to terms with yet another terrorist atrocity. There was a time which places of worship were recognised as providing sanctuary. Sadly today's killers did not think that way. Jesus taught people to love one another and not to return evil for evil. The Prophet Mohammed taught his followers that anyone who killed someone who is at peace with Islam will never breathe the air of paradise, and that his God is "the compassionate, the merciful." Anyone who kills in the name of either Christianity or Islam is ignoring the true message of either. Note that, unfortunately, I am not saying that the vicious murders perpetrated by some terrorists are not carried out in th

As ICM gives the Conservatives a 16% lead we must avoid complacency

CON 43% (+4) LAB 27% (-2) LD 8% -1 UKIP 13% -1 GREEN 4% (Source: ICM) No, I know, we should not put too much faith in opinion polls, but that is Labour's worst opinion poll score since the nadir of Gordon Brown's premiership in 2009. It is a clear sign of Labour's utter uselessness as an effective opposition. But that very uselessness is a threat. The warning for the Conservatives and the country must be that politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. As Disraeli said There must be no room for complacency. We must be very careful not to generate our own opposition and to be seen to deal with the very difficult challenges facing the country.

Quote of the day 26th July 2016


Theresa May visits Northern Ireland

One of the biggest problems in making Brexit work - indeed, a major part of one of the two main reasons I personally eventually voted "Remain" - is the total inconsistency between the Leave promise to "take back control" of the UK's borders and their promise not to introduce border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. When Britain leaves the European border this will become our land border between Britain and the European Union,  and at the moment the only way you know when you have crossed it is that the speed limit signs change. To introduce controls on that border would be both horribly expensive and devastating to the lives of local people on both sides of it, but there could be serious difficulties implementing some of the "take back control" promises without doing so. I was very pleased to see the reports of Theresa May's visit to Northern Ireland to meet the leaders of the Northern Ireland Assembly for two rea

Our world is about to change - and sooner than we realise

For the last fifty years the vast majority of people in Britain and other OECD countries have learned to drive in early adulthood and most have made regular use of this skill. My twin son and daughter, who turned fifteen a few days ago, are likely to be the last generation for whom this is true. If they had been five this year rather than fifteen - possibly even if they were ten - my bet would be that when they reach the age to learn to drive the impact on the vehicle market and insurance rates of driverless cars would have made it prohibitively expensive for most young people to learn to drive. People of my generation who wish to continue driving may be able to do so as long as we retain our health and no-claims bonuses and manage not to trip too many speed cameras but it will become more and more expensive and those of us who take this option will come to be seen as dinosaurs. Inside ten years I think it is likely that the number of people who chose to own and drive their own c

Mayor of Copeland to hold Cleator Moor public meeting

The directly-elected mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie will be holding a public meeting at Wath Brow Rugby League Club, Cleator Moor, tomorrow (Tuesday 26th July 2016) from 6pm. This will give local residents a chance to ask about issues of concern. There will also be representatives from Cumbria County Council and local parish councils at the meeting.

Quote of the day 25th July 2016

(From an article by Dan Hodges in the Mail which you can read in full here .)

Next phase of West Cumberland Hospital redevelopment and refurbishment to go ahead.

Stephen Eames, chief executive at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, has confirmed that phase two of the hospital rebuilding and refurbishment programme for West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) will go ahead. Plans for phase two of the redevelopment were halted last year when the estimated costs to carry out the work went over budget by £10m. The old children's ward (Fairfield Ward) which is in the original hospital building will now be refurbished, mostly during spring 2017, and will house breast screening, cardiology, mortuary, renal, maternity ward and a vascular laboratory. Demolition of the old WCH main entrance is planned for summer 2018. This will involved knocking down the old buildings which currently block the view of the building from Homewood Road. The money will come from the redevelopment's previous £90m budget. More on my hospitals blog at

Catherine Street Surgery in Whitehaven to close at the end of this month

Dr Judith Spencer, who runs the Catherine Street Surgery, will see her last patients on Friday, July 29th 2016. With her retirement this GP practice surgery will close. Patients of the practice, of whom there are about 2,600, will then be transferred a few yards up the road to the Whitehaven Medical Centre, also in Catherine Street (in the former magistrates court building) which is run by Dr Tom Ickes. The Catherine Street staff, which includes two practice nurses, a health care assistant and five receptionists, will also move to the new surgery. Dr Spencer, who has been a GP at the surgery for seven years, officially retires on July 31 with the practice closing for the last time on July 29 at 6.30pm. She said: "I have enjoyed my time at the surgery and will miss the patients because they have been a big part of my life."

Prophesy and Proof in the ancient world and today:

Today is the Patronal Festival for churches dedicated in the name of St James (such as St James' Whitehaven) and some of the readings at Church this morning which referenced him triggered a line of thought about how people fall into very different intellectual traps about the nature of proof both now and two thousand years ago - and yet they have a remarkable similarity. The Gospel reading was, of course, the story of how the mother of James and his brother John, perhaps the ultimate cringe-worthily embarrassing pushy parent of all time, asked Jesus if when he came into his Kingdom her sons could be seated next to him at his right and left. Jesus told her that she did not understand what they were asking, and asked the brothers " Can you drink the cup that I drink of ?" (Matthew, 20, 22) I remember thinking " Oops !" on one of the very first occasions that I heard the reading continue with their replies " We can ." Even before Jesus said "

Sunday music spot: Beethoven's - Moonlight Sonata (1st movement)


Shipbuilding row: our sailors deserve ships which are fit for purpose.

There is currently a row about childish tweets from the SNP leader over a shipbuilding contract to provide the Royal Navy's next generation of frigates, which are due to be built in Scotland. There appear to be some  genuine issues with this major order, which shipbuilding workers on the Clyde were promised before the 2014 Scottish referendum vote. But the petulant nonsense from the SNP leader is hardly the best way to deal with those issues. The Royal Navy needs the Type 26 Global Combat ship to replace the aging Type 23 frigates. People whose opinions I respect are saying that there is good reason to start building these ships as soon as is compatible with ensuring they are fit for purpose. And there is the issue. We have recently had problems with regard to the engines of the navy's new £1 billion each  Type 45 destroyers which are liable to break down in hot climates . The last thing our sailors need is another set of massively expensive warships which are not fit

Quote of the day 24th July 2016

"We Tory Remain voters have had a little moan, a big sulk and a quiet tear. But now we must snap out of it, or there’s a terrible danger of slipping into a sort of Tsarist Russian √©migr√© state of mind, dining with each other, dreaming of a return and taking secret pleasure in any setback our country may suffer. I’m resolved not to scour each morning’s papers for news of a fall in sterling, or greet reports of businesses leaving Britain with a grimly satisfied “I told you so”. It’s corrosive. Real livelihoods, real people are at stake and we must wish always for the best. There’s a decent chance that after a few bumps along the way our economy will be fine. With heart as well as head we must wish only for this." "Leave the nation to reflect. Leave Mrs May to construct the best deal available. Do nothing to undermine her. Give her all the help we can. Counsel the compromise she may need to recommend. And if she succeeds, as with skill and luck she might, let’s own, with

After the "Leave" vote - Matthew Parris on finding a way forward

As I said at the start of the previous post, the referendum has happened. Leave won. However much  48% of us regret that, we have to accept the reality of it and find a way to move forward. I spent a day or so in the "Denial" and several weeks in the "Anger" phases of my response, but that cannot last and we have to come back together as a country and find a constructive way forward. Journalist and former MP Matthew Parris appears to be emerging from a much deeper phase of anger than I did, writing at one point that for the first time in his life he felt ashamed to be British. I didn't have that reaction, and I see the attitude represented by the phrase in the third paragraphs of the article below " We think the voters got it wrong " as an attractive but dangerous temptation to be resisted, not as a position I would defend. (If you read the article in context, I think it is pretty clear that this is also how Matthew Parris intended his words to b

What does BREXIT actually mean?

The vote has happened. Leave won. However much  many of us regret that, we have to accept the reality of it and find a way to move forward. As the new Prime Minister has said "Brexit means Brexit" but some have asked "What does that mean?" The answer is actually very simple[ - BREXIT means that Britain will cease to be a member of the European Union. That was what was on the ballot paper and it is what the Leave side have an electoral mandate for. IT DOES NOT PROVIDE AN OVER-RIDING MANDATE FOR ANYTHING ELSE. Brexit does NOT - necessarily - mean leaving the Single Market as well as the EU . That was not on the ballot paper and there were people actively campaigning for a leave vote who were also arguing that we could and should remain in the EEA. Indeed, Remain campaigners promised us that Britain would continue to have access to the single market if we voted Leave because the remainder of the EU would be silly to put trade barriers in place between th

On human memory

Earlier today my wife and I were looking at a few cars which were on sale at various garages at West Cumbria. The salesman at one garage asked about a car we had previously owned, "Didn't you used to have ..." to which we replied in the affirmative and asked how he knew. He had sold us the vehicle concerned eleven years ago while working at a different dealership. The details matched too well for his recollection to be a coincidental error rather than an accurate memory. Is not the human memory an extraordinary thing?

Saturday music slot: Bach's Harpsichord Concerto No.1 in D minor


Quotes of the day 23rd July 2016

"Things you never hear voters say part 1: I voted Tory because Labour just weren't left wing enough." "Things you never hear voters say part 2: I'd vote Labour if they only had a leader who supported the IRA." (Former Labour MP Tom Harris on twitter yesterday evening.)

Another modest proposal ...

Warning - for anyone who does not realise this from the title, this post contains irony. Arguments about Europe have now brought down three consecutive Conservative Prime ministers. First they brought down the greatest PM of the past fifty years, the women who came to power when Britain was the sick man of Europe and gave us back pride in our country. Then they brought down the PM who still holds the record that he was re-elected with the largest vote ever cast for any British political party in a general election. Last month they brought down the man who restored the Conservative brand, lead the country out of recession, made more gains than any Conservative leader in the party's history in the 2010 election and was the only PM for decades to increase both his share of the votes and seats in the 2015 election. We need to put a stop to this So as soon as Brexit is completed and we are no longer in the position where a certain amount of discussion of Europe is unavoidab

Anger Management

I actually quite enjoy a friendly argument. However, this stops at the point where people start getting genuinely upset, throwing nasty insults and the people taking a different view which they appear to actually mean, and so on. One of the things which concerned me about the Scottish Independence referendum, and to a lesser extent the debate about whether Britain should leave Europe, was that rather too many people on both sides got quite nasty about it. And yes, it was definitely both sides. It is a cause of some continuing concern to me that some of my Remainer friends are convinced that nearly all the nastiness came from the Leave side, but although there certainly was some nastiness from some Leave supporters, some, not all, of those who wanted Britain to stay in the EU have been gratuitously insulting towards those who supported Leave. Exactly the same point is true the other way around. It cannot be emphasised too strongly that there were good arguments on both sides. That

Quote of the day 22nd July 2016


Spot the difference

The Republican party of the USA - the party of Abraham Lincoln, and of Ronald Reagan - held their national convention this week. They nominated Donald J Trump for the most important office in the world. There was a time when that party knew how to nominate people who anyone around the world who believes in freedom knew they could depend on and be proud to have as an ally. Here is a reminder.

Senator Ben Sasse: "Americans Keep Our Word"

Donald J Trump does not speak for all Americans or even all republicans. United States Senator Ben Sasse, whom I have admired for some time following his excellent speech following a terrorist atrocity had this to say in response to the Donald's comments about NATO: